When Mercedes premiere a model worldwide there is not usually a driving opportunity involved.
However, the much-anticipated X-Class made a concession in that we were treated to a short “taxi ride” over a mixture of tar and dirt.
The key question is, given that the X-Class is being built on a Navara production line in Spain, to what extent has it been made into a Mercedes.
Without driving it oneself over a reasonable distance, it is not really possible to tell. However, the interior certainly has a Mercedes look and feel and the fit and finish is equally up to standard. Inside the X-Class is a luxury double cab.
Ride comfort too, was impressive and, in the hands of a Mercedes professional driver, the handling was good by bakkie standards. When it comes to noise, vibration and harshness, I am not convinced.
To some extent this will depend on pricing. The X-Class will start at roughly R560 000 when it goes on sale in its initial market, Europe.
To reach an actual South African price one would have to account the amount government siphons off via the myriad taxes imported vehicles are subjected to.
This again can be mitigated by the fact that Mercedes can throw credits it earns from C-Class production in East London. Whatever Mercedes come up with, I am certain it will be at the top end, currently lead by the VW Amarok V6 at nearly R750 000.
The Nissan Navara spans the R520 000 to R590 000 range and there is quite a bit more to the X-Class.
There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent allwheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The X-Class Pure basic variant is punted as the workhorse. You would be lucky to have an employer that gave you that set of wheels at work. I would in fact be slightly surprised if Mercedes even bother with this model in South Africa.
The X-Class Progressive, Mercedes tell us, is aimed at people seeking a rugged pickup with extra styling and comfort functions – as a calling card for their own business, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private use. The X-Class Power they say is the high-end design and equipment line.
It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount.
The X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1.1 tonnes, which Mercedes explain is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area. I love the way these people think.
Towing capacity is up to 3.5 tons. A 12-volt socket to power is also part of the standard equipment in the load bed, perhaps to keep the beer cold. The Progressive and Power models certainly have you feeling as if you are in a true MercedesBenz.
Featuring the Command Online multimedia system, it has a screen diagonal of a generous 8.4 inches and its high resolution screen displays the optional 360-Degree Camera and the navigation maps.
A 5.4-inch colour multimedia display sits between the round dials on the instrument cluster.
The high-torque common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2.3 litres is available with a choice of two power outputs. In the X 220 d with single turbocharger it generates 120 kW and in the biturbo X 250d 140 kW.
Both diesel models can switch between rear wheel drive and allwheel drive.
Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic transmission is available on request for the 140 kW/190 hp X 250 d and X 250 d 4MATIC models.